Let's Give · Let's travel

A reflection of our Nica Habitat build

It’s been less than 24 hours since I arrived safely home, yet my mind and heart are still filled with beautiful memories of our adventure.

 

Team USA building homes & hope in Nica!

When we arrived in Managua last Saturday we were excited to begin our build, yet I don’t know how much my team members knew how impacted they would be by this experience.

Building a cinder block home is not easy for those used to sitting in an office from 8-5, as we don’t do a whole lot of concrete mixing, constant bending, heavy lifting and being on our feet all day.  But every team member powered through each day, and even though tired, maybe bitten by mosquitoes, bruised by a bucket or cinder block, & some random belly issues all I could see were smiling faces, and all I could hear was laughter and teams sharing their work on the busride home and at dinner.  

 

working hard building homes in Nica!

Almost as magical as the home build and spending the day side by side with the family, are the conversations happening between our team members each day about their new found mason skills, inside jokes about daily team happenings, and getting all 24 together each evening over drinks and dinner to connect in a beautiful way.
  
Although my last 2 trips to Nica were unforgettable, with last year being a women’s build with 19 amazingly strong women, this years trip was extra special as this build was with a team of individuals I know, many of who I work with and several I consider close friends.  Sharing an experience like this with family and friends connects you in a way I can’t begin to describe.  It is team building and trust in its extreme. Being in a foreign country, not knowing the language and doing work outside of your element, you have to trust the folks you are working with and know they have your back (even with your sexy back brace on!).

These homes could not be built in 5 days without a well-oiled team with passionate and determined individuals working as one.

 

Team Sue building home for Maura & family

The stories of the families we build for are fairly similar…Maura Gonzalez, the family my team of 8 built for was for her, her 3 children and 1 grandson.  They have a combined monthly income of around $37.  Tight living conditions, home floods when it rains, and kitchen smoke fills the room they sleep in.  Their new home (only 18sqmtr) will give them a dry, clean and safe place to sleep and spend their days in.  Simple needs most of us take for granted as we’ve been lucky to have these most if not all of our lives.
 
Maura’s home dedication on Friday

In the next couple weeks Habitat masons and staff will add the roof, doors and windows, and the family will move in soon.  Seeing the home of Guadalupe 1 year later and how well she’s doing is proof we are changing their life forever and giving them hope, safety,and a home to be proud of.
 
Guadalupe & family 1 year after our life changing encounter
 
After we completed our build we celebrated  with the families and then with our team.  The muscles are sore, but the souls are nourished!  

A few pics of the beautiful Nica people we were blessed to meet along our journey:

   
 
And a few pics of our team having the times of our lives in Nica:

 

Old City Managua
 
 
Esteli waterfall
  
Team dinner
  
Busride to dinner (clean!)
 
 
Masaya volcano
  
Home dedication & celebration
 
For all the hard work that goes into building these homes, there is double the amount of love, laughter, team work and our joy that make these trips more and more enjoyable each year, and encourage others to try at least once in their life!!  But I warn you, it’s addicting!!

I hope this trip helped create 23 new ambassadors for Habitat and the Global Village program, and hope to see you all in Nica next year!!

Love you Team!! 💓

 

Let's Give · Let's travel

A beautiful dedication, celebration & day of joy! 

I’m not quite sure where to start with this blog…its been an incredibly emotional and joyful day.  Today we poured the concrete floor in our 3 homes, cleaned up and decorated the homes for our dedications.  

Our team of 24 dedicated and blessed each home, and presented the 3 families with a bible and blessed the home.  It’s at this moment you realize you are in this journey as much for yourself as you are for the families you are building for.  

  
There were many tears, hugs and retrospectives as to what we accomplished individually, spiritually and as a team this week.  To change a family’s life in 5 days with 8 people is pretty amazing; each of these families will have a dry and safe home to sleep in, raise their children or grandchildren, and most importantly to have that sense of pride of ownership.

  

Post dedication we all headed to INPRHU for a community celebration with the other teams that built a combined 7 homes, as well as the families we worked with and families from the 1st phase of the Esteli partnership.

  
The celebration was filled with music, dancing and pure joy and emotion as we spent time playing games with the local children.  The piñata was the hit of course and children and adults were both caught in the crossfire.  

 And my highlight was not only did I get to see the house I helped build last year and Guadalupe, but today I saw my buddy Jordan and his sister at the celebration.  We immediately recognized each other and gave each other a big hug!!

 
 The emotions of a day like today range from feeling exhausted when hand mixing a dozen batches of concrete to a sense of pride when seeing the family’s house blessed, and to then see the children’s joy of being able to dance, play and beat the crap out of paper mache to get candy can be overwhelming.  

Tomorrow we leave Esteli and head off to our final destination, including the Masaya volcano, the market and Lake Granada.  We will celebrate withthe other teams and our habitat family, and send our farewells to our new family.

It’s mixed emotions of joy and sadness as we leave our new family and friends and head back to our daily lives.  

Will recap our adventure and share more pics of this amazing group of individuals coming together as a team to make our mark and leave the most precious memories in our hearts and souls.

  

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Walls are up baby!!

Now we are completely into our groove, today (day 4) finishing up the walls and starting on the floor.  And when I mean floor I mean shoveling a huge pile of dirt into the house to be tamped and prepped for the concrete floor!  But not before mixing up many more mortar and concrete batches!

  
  
Today was a half day so we could enjoy an afternoon at the waterfall just outside of Esteli.  It’s a small hike down to this small but peaceful waterfall where (although it was raining) we have a brave few get some swimming in.  Followed this up by a snack at La Casita, this darling cafe with a beautiful meandering yard with succulents and greenery everywhere; would love to see that much green in California!  

  
We are on the home stretch and feeling our sense of accomplishment as we see our homes almost complete.   
Hasta mañana!

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Half way there!

Day 3 is a tough day, even for a veteran like me 😉 This is the day we try to put up as many rows of blocks as we can, which means a whole lot of mortar and concrete.

Put blocks in house, make mortar, lay mortar, lay block, put in mortar joints, make concrete, pick rocks, put concrete and rocks in blocks, and repeat, and repeat and repeat!  We had some extra help which got the process moving a little quicker, and we became a well oiled assembly line, getting 6 rows completed in 1 day!

  
After lunch was certainly my highlight of the day; we were able to see the 2 homes the Sacramento women’s team built last November.  Guadalupe, the woman’s home I helped build was home and I got to see her completed home, and get a big hug from her! 

We had a special night out of the hotel and went to dinner at Pullasos Ole, and enjoyed a very special evening bonding over some good grub and vino.  Our habitat family joined us which made our party louder and even more special.  Many folks have told me they’d sign up again in a heart beat to do this next year.  Pretty amazing as they are sitting there with bruises and sore muscles…some hard labor and knowing you are making a safe and dry home for a family makes all those aches go away! And the team bonding is undeniable.  You can’t not walk away from a team build without some change in perspective, gratitude and connection with others, and that’s what it’s all about!

  

We clean up well don’t we??

On to Day 4!! 😀

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We survived Day 2!

This is the day you wake up and realize you have muscles you forgot you had; they’ve been dormant and they are letting you know how they feel about being reawakened!!

  
The bus ride over may have been a tad quieter but still filled with excitement and determination.  We get back to work on finishing up our rebar for the midsection support, mixing mortar and concrete, and moving more blocks into the house.
By now we know what to do, are experts (we think!) of mixing the concrete and laying bricks.  Post-lunch we built the scaffolding, & started prepping for rebar installation.  

  
The children are more comfortable with us, more interested in what we’re doing than playing with each other, and some older kids helped us shovel dirt to fill the home floor with about 2-3″ of dirt.  They are our saviors!!

  
We ended our day with a cigar manufacturing tour of the largest employer in Esteli, employing over 500 workers in the growing season.  You can’t buy any cigars there as they are for export only, but we’ll have the distributor come by the hotel so we can purchase (sorry no Cubans!).

Another satisfying day, and after 2 days our walls are half built and we are getting stronger as a team.  The continual laughter and hearing everyone talk about their day and the new jobs they learned is so rewarding.  And the fact we haven’t lost anyone yet is fantastic!!! 😃

Buenos noches!! 

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Esteli Day 1 build

The first time you drive up to the build site it can be a little intimidating…the families and neighbors are all watching you to see what you’ll be doing; then you start wondering what the heck did I sign up for!!!  We all got dropped off at the 1st house for a quick orientation, then split into our 3 teams to go meet our families and see our build sites.  

Most of the homes have been prepped by having the trench dug, the initial rebar and cement wall foundation poured as well as the 1st level of cinder blocks.  From there we build and build…🛠

  
With our back supports and gloves on we get to work.  Assembly lines of getting cinder blocks into the house ready for installation, creating the 2nd level rebar support, mixing a whole lot of mortar and cemento and helping the mason lay the blocks.

The morning goes a little slow as everything is new & filled with instruction and Spanish translation, and with the breaks to chat and take pictures 📷 of the local kids 👦🏽 fascinated by us invading their town!! 

At lunch we head to INPRU the local community center, where we are greeted with food and running toilets; hey it’s the small things in life you start to appreciate very quickly!!

After an 1.5 hour lunch break with eating & transportation, it’s back to the job site to build another wall row before we clean up the site and tools before heading home at 4:30.  By now the muscles are getting a little tight, the stink (of us) on the bus smells like a satisfying 1/2 marathon event, and we are still smiling, laughing and chatting up a storm!

The first priority once back at the hotel is to get a hot shower & find some clean clothes.  Within an hour we had the whole team congregate up on the roof top balcony to share our adventures and experiences of the day.  Walking around and chatting with my team members to see how their day went is my highlight; to hear the same excitement from them that I feel every time I come here is what it’s all about.  

It’s so much more than building homes; it’s about making a connection to the community, serving families that we’ll change forever, but more importantly serving ourselves and finding our servants heart.  Like the grinch story goes…everyone’s heart grew a few sizes bigger yesterday! And they were big to start with!! ❤️

I could not have asked for a better team and spirited, hard working and dedicated team.  Can’t wait to double the team next year…you hear that VSP!!

Again pics to come once I have wifi!

Adios and buenas dias!!

Let's Give · Let's travel

Primero dia en Esteli!

Outside of our home dedication day, this is the most special day of the trip. We settled into our habitat orientation at 8am today, where we met up with 2 more teams from the USA. Together we have 71 volunteers here to build 7 homes in 5 days!!  

  
Led by our hosts Frank and Elisa, we learned about the housing needs in Nicaragua, which are dire.  Being the 2nd poorest country in Central America after Haiti, and with an extremely young population with a weak economic infrastructure, the stats are striking on how many homes need to be built and fixed to upgrade the living conditions to humane.

A few stats that are beyond staggering:

  • 1 of every 4 children die under the age of 5 from preventable diseases
  • 51% of the population is unemployed
  • 609k homes need to be improved for decent living conditions
  • 40% of homes have access to water thru plumbing
  • 25% have a toilet 
  • 30% have concrete walls to protect themselves from the elements 

The families we are serving in Esteli are primarily lead by females, supporting multi generations and working hard to bring in $1-2 per day to support the familia.

Between our 3 teams we raised over $45k for this community, and we will leave behind hopes and dreams, a sense of pride of ownership and the basic right to keep your family safe.

Once I have a stronger connection I’ll share some pics from our tour of Old Managua City and our road trip to Esteli, and our 1st evening terrorizing Hotel Los Arcos!

 

Esteli City Park
 
  
  

1st dinner in Esteli
  
Salud! 🍷

Old City Managua